Authors on a bus!

A bunch of authors and illustrators touring around Melbourne and Sydney on a mini-bus with a publicist… what could possibly go wrong?

Well… aside from being mobbed by an entire school’s worth of kids desperate for the bag of lollies I was about to distribute on Halloween; and being made to impersonate a meerkat on stage at an awards ceremony (I can’t really explain this one. You just had to be there.)… it all went pretty well, actually.

Why was this all happening? Because of the YABBA and KOALA awards – one Melbourne based, the other Sydney based, but both fed from the same shortlist of books nominated by kids from across the country. Celebrating their shortlisted authors, Penguin Random House decided to tour some of them during the two weeks surrounding the awards ceremonies.

In Melbourne I was with authors RA Spratt, Tim Harris, Belinda Murrell and Tristan Bancks, and illustrator James Hart. In Sydney, Tristan was swapped out for Felice Arena, with illustrator Tom Jellett being added into the mix. Authors usually tour on their own when promoting a new book, which can be a bit lonely… so this tour, with a cast of thousands, was quite the novelty.

Over the two weeks, we visited 13 schools, 16 bookstores and attended the two awards ceremonies. It was a travelling roadshow of creativity, comedy, inspiration and insanity. Storytelling, reading, drawing, dancing, shouting, trumpet-blowing and lots of other strange things happened as we took kids through our creative processes. It was an absolute privilege to share the stage with this wonderful group of people, creating bonds of performance and camaraderie. I learned so much from watching them present, and even more from the publishing industry conversations we had on the bus between schools.

The YABBAs and the KOALAs are an extraordinary set of awards, giving kids the chance to nominate and vote for their favourite Aussie books. And the organisers, who are all volunteers, do an amazing amount of work putting these awards together, as well as generally promoting Australian books, authors and illustrators. All of us who were on the tour felt greatly honoured to have been shortlisted.

And now for the winners … [insert drum roll] …

In addition to the standard awards, there were also a couple of special awards to recognise particular authors’ contribution to Australian children’s literature. Meredith Costain, one of the hardest working children’s authors I have ever met, received the Graham Davey Citation at the YABBA awards. And Belinda Murrell was named the 2018 KOALA Legend. Of course, we already knew she was a legend. This just formalised it. :-)

I’ll finish things off with a transcript of my mini-speech from the KOALA awards. Each of the nominated people were asked to speak for about two minutes on one of the topics from the Australian Children’s Laureate “Stories Make Us…” calendar. Here’s what I said…

Stories make us creative. Stories make us connected. They make us hopeful, inspired, determined, honest, clever, curious, cheeky and thoughtful. Stories make us celebrate.

Yes, stories make us all of these things, and so much more.

In theory, I’m supposed to pick one word from the list I’ve just read and speak about it. But I’m not gonna do that. No. I’m gonna add two of my own words instead.

Because… Stories make us rebellious. They show us how important it is to be ourselves and to do things in our own unique ways. From Tom Sawyer to Lyra Silvertongue to Katniss Everdeen… characters and their stories can make us realise the importance of sometimes defying authority, bucking the system and being true to ourselves.

And writing stories has also given me a taste for rebellion, as I have discovered the joys of breaking grammatical rules, making up my own words and occasionally subverting stereotypes and expectations.

But — putting rebellion aside — if I had to choose one definitive word to use in the context of “Stories make us…”, it would be “HAPPY”.

Never underestimate the importance and significance of the happiness that stories can bring into people’s lives. The pure joy of being captivated by and lost in a story.

Yep! Stories make me happy!

For a complete set of pics from the tour, check out the Instagram hashtags #yabbatour and #koalatour2018

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Kids and DOCTOR WHO and 13

The BBC have released an utterly gorgeous video with school kids getting a preview of DOCTOR WHO Series 11 and a surprise visit from the 13th Doctor herself, Jodie Whittaker (see bottom of post)

Just look at the excitement on the faces of these kids. Anyone ranting against the decision to cast a woman as the 13th Doctor, needs to watch this and have a think about what it is that frightens them so much. These kids not only accept a woman in the role, they are downright excited about it.

As a children’s author, I do heaps of school talks, and I usually mention that I’m a DOCTOR WHO fan. In all those times, since the announcement of Jodie Whittaker, there has been an overwhelming excitement from kids I’ve spoken to about the casting. The only negative reaction I’ve seen in my school visits (and it was more wariness than dislike) came from one older teen boy and two teachers (both white middle-aged males).

The kids in this video, and others like them, are the future. The series is being made for these people… not for entitled, bigoted, old-fart dinosaurs who are unable to accept change within a series that has built its existence around being able to change.

I am just as excited as these kids…

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Getting a good review is pretty great. But getting a good review in which your writing is compared to someone/something you are a fan of… well… that’s just AWESOME!

In her Magpies magazine review of Game World, Beth Dolan wrote:

“Special mention of the mother-figure who could challenge Coraline’s Button Mother for creepy malevolence.”

OMG! A Neil Gaiman comparison! I adore Gaiman’s writing and love his book Coraline. In fact, in a recent interview, I picked the Other Mother with her button eyes, as my favourite fictional villain. So this comparison leaves me a bit speechless. Magpies is a subscription magazine… check out the website.

Anyone who knows me could tell you that I’m a HUGE Doctor Who fan. It is my main pop culture obsession. So this little comparison from the ReadPlus review of Perfect World by Clare Thompson, completely blew me away:

Perfect World reminded me of a Doctor Who episode; it was fast paced and cinematic”

Wow! Just wow! There is no higher praise in my view. You can read the full review here.

While on the subject of Doctor Who, I should mention that each of the OTHER WORLDS books has a hidden Doctor Who reference. I put these in most of my books, purely to amuse myself. They are usually pretty obscure and I’m not expecting anyone to notice they are there. But it’s kinda cool when someone does notice. Especially in a review…

“Also nice to see that Ivanoff is clearly a fan of the late great Douglas Adams, and has included one or two references ”

This is from the Reading Time review of Game World by Christian Price. You can read the full review here.

I was watching the Tom Baker story “Shada”, written by Douglas Adams, while writing Game World… so my two main characters ended living in Adamstown, with one on Shada Street and the other on Douglas Avenue.

I’m chuffed that there have been lots of other really positive reviews for the OTHER WORLDS books. If you’re interested in checking them out, here’s a list…

  • “This is a racing read that will grip reluctant readers”
    Perfect World, Books + Publishing, 23 October 2017, Full Review.
  • “It is full of action and adventure, but there is far more to it than that. It will get your students thinking about individuality, differences, acceptance and who controls the world.”
    Perfect World, Lamont Books, March 2018, Full Review.
  • “Keagan is the key to teaching the clones about diversity and friendship – and his relationship with Eone is quite adorable, as is their journey to discovering diversity, and divergence and enlightenment – and hopefully, this book will show kids that it is okay to be who you are and that you don’t have to fit in with the crowd..”
    Perfect World, The Book Muse, 1 May, Full Review.
  • Beast World shows diversity and difference, and puts a spin on the way portal worlds are portrayed. This unique and fun story has animals in clothes as Lords and Ladies in a Victorian London setting, and uses the dynamics of the human world in the animal world to illustrate how different people will do anything to attain their goals.”
    Beast World, The Book Muse, 4 May 2018, Full Review.
  • “Perfect World is a well-executed exploration of what it means to be unique.”
    Perfect World, Tim Harris, 12 June 2018, Full Review.
  • “This series is certainly going to keep readers on the edge of their seats.”
    Game World and Dark World, Just So Stories, 29 July 2018, Full Review.
  • “The books in the “Other Worlds” series are exciting fast-paced junior novels, filled with action, adventure, mystery, set in alternate realities. With both boy and girl protagonists and themes of friendship, collaboration, accepting diversity and problem solving, these novels will engage readers from ages 8 and up.”
    Game World and Dark World, ReadPlus, 21 September 2018, Full Review.
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Shank Night in Grindelwald

Whilst attending a writers festival in an odd faux Swiss village in Tasmania, named Grindelwald, some of my fellow-writers and I decided that it would make a great setting for a murder mystery novel. One by one, authors are murdered for the mistakes they have made in their novels, their method of demise being in line with their genre. We decided to name the potential novel after the “Shank Night” special from our first dinner at the Alpenrose Lakeside Bistro & Bar.

Writers are weird! Our imaginations never rest. We spent the whole festival adding to our private murder mystery and even the spilled wine at Saturday night’s dinner became another incident in the plot!

The festival was the Tamar Valley Writers Festival. Murder planning aside, the event was AWESOME! They had 61 speakers over the course of three days, which included a schools day that was FREE for students to attend. The program ran like clockwork (quite appropriate for a Swiss village), the panel moderators were well researched and eloquent, and the topics were varied and interesting. There were a wonderful bunch of organisers and volunteers that looked after us, making sure we were fed, watered and where we were meant to be at any given moment. [Waves to Nella, Anne, Tamara, Mary, Wendy, Lyndon, Dale and all the others.]

One of my favourite things about being invited as a festival speaker, is getting the chance to attend other writers’ sessions. Friends like Paul Collins, Amie Kaufman, Andrew Plant and Jackie Kerin were on the program, and they are always rather brilliant. But I also got to see wonderful presentations from authors I’d not met before, including Jodi McAlister, Kyle Mewburn and Robbie Arnott… resulting in a rush to the Petrarch’s Bookshop stall (which had books from all the speakers at the festival).

To top it all off, I got to meet Glynn Nicholas at the festival’s opening cocktail party and a Dalek at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston.

Thank you to the organising committee for inviting me, and to my speaking agent Paul Collins (from Creative Net) for recommending me.

The Tamar Valley Writers Festival is held every two years. If you happen to be in Tassie when the next one is on… GO TO IT!

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OTHER WORLDS series trailer

After individual trailers for Perfect World and Beast World, we now have a trailer for the OTHER WORLDS series as a whole.  :-)

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Publication Day

Game World and Dark World (books 3 and 4 of OTHER WORLDS) hit the shelves today. Yay! I’m celebrating with some flourless orange cake. But… um… I was most of the way through my slice before I realised that I had forgotten to take a photo for this blog post. Whoops!

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2018 REAL awards

OMG! OMG! OMG! A You Choose book has made it on to the REAL awards shortlist for the fourth year in a row. How cool is that? And what an amazing honour!

The REAL (Reading & Enjoying Australian Literature) awards are a group of state-based awards for children’s literature that are nominated and voted on by kids. The shortlist feeds into three sets of awards – the YABBAs in Victoria; the KOALAs in NSW; and the KROCs in the Northern Territory.

In 2015, You Choose: The Treasure of Dead Man’s Cove was shortlisted in the “Fiction For Younger Readers” section… and it won a YABBA.

In 2016 and 2017, You Choose: Alien Invaders From Beyond the Stars was shortlisted in the “Fiction For Younger Readers” section… and it got an Honour Award in the KOALAs both those years.

This year it’s You Choose: Footy Fever in the “Fiction For Younger Readers” section. This is the special You Choose book that was licensed by the AFL. I am over-the-moon excited that it has made it onto this list, which is chock-full of amazing books and authors…

  • Bad Guys: Intergalactic Gas by Aaron Blabey
  • Billie B Brown: Billie’s Yummy Bakery Adventure by Sally Rippin (illustrated by Alisa Coburn)
  • Ella And Olivia: Zoo Rescue by Yvette Pogloshian (illustrated by Danielle McDonald)
  • Ella Diaries: Pony School Showdown by Meredith Costain (illustrated by Danielle McDonald)
  • Eric Vale Off The Rails by Michael Gerard Bauer (illustrated by Joe Bauer)
  • Hotdog!: Party Time by Anh Do (illustrated by Dan McGuiness)
  • Polly And Buster: The Wayward Witch & The Feelings Monster by Sally Rippin
  • Sporty Kids: Handball by Felice Arena (illustrated by Tom Jellett)
  • WeirDo: Really Weird! by Anh Do (illustrated by Jules Faber)

And there’s even more great books across three other sections: “Picture Story Books”, “Fiction for Older Readers” and “Fiction for Years 7-9”. Check out the full list.

Of course, this shortlisting is shared with the amazing James Hart, who has done the cover and internal illustrations for Footy Fever, as well as the other twelve You Choose books and the four OTHER WORLDS books (two of which are out, with the other two being released on 28 May).  James’s artwork has given my books an incredible vibrancy and his cover illustrations shout “PICK ME UP” at passing book browsers.

As well as illustrating my books, James has also done the artwork for Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables by Tim Harris, which has been shortlisted in the “Fiction For Older Readers” section. He’s also created this year’s Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge Primary School poster. Is there no end to this guy’s talent? Check out his website to see all this other awesome work.

Posted in books, You Choose series | 2 Comments

Bookshop Workshop

Today I ran a two-hour intensive writing workshop for kids aged seven and up, at Eltham Bookshop. It was all about structure and planning. Several of the participants were interested in using the group planning activities as a basis for their own writing, so I promised to put photos of the whiteboard plans up on my website for them to look at. So here we go…

First up is the plan for an interactive horror story, in which the reader either goes to a graveyard full of zombies and accidentally facilitates the creation of a Mega King Zombie, or gets kidnapped by a haunted car and taken to a deserted carnival where they are attacked by a shape-changing killer robot clown.

Next up, we have the mind mapping of potential new OTHER WORLDS stories. The one that seemed to get the most interest was about a paleontologist visiting a prehistoric world just as the dinosaurs are about to be wiped out by an asteroid.

During the session I read a little from You Choose: Creepy Crawly Chaos and then told them about my experience of posing for a photo with a bird-eating spider (don’t worry… not only was it dead, but it was also frozen). They wanted to see the pic, so here it is…

After the workshop was over I spent a bit of time signing books for the participants, and then all the remaining stock for the shop. So if anyone wants a signed copy of one of my books, Eltham Bookshop has LOTS!

Posted in Appearances, books, bookstores, Otherworlds, Writing, You Choose series | 4 Comments

Speccy-tacular AFL Stories

Happy Publication Day to this awesome footy anthology. I’m pleased to have a story (about football on another planet) in this book, along with those written by Michael Wagner, Tony Wilson, Nicole Hayes, Adrian Beck, Michael Panckridge, Sherryl Clark, Patrick Loughlin, Meredith Costain, Shivaun Plozza and David Lawrence. And the illustrations are by Simon Rattray.


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Beast World book trailer

The BEAST WORLD trailer has been released. So exciting!

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Perfect World book trailer

LOOK! Perfect World has a trailer…

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The Doorway Opens

Today, the doorway opens on OTHER WORLDS with the publication of books one and two – Perfect World and Beast World. This new series of sci-fi/fantasy/adventure books, aimed at kids aged 8 and up, is officially launched today! I celebrated Publication Day this morning with a fancy cheesecake. :-)

I am so excited about this series of books. I’ve always had a liking for portal fiction, so getting the chance to write my own has been a dream come true. Plus, I’ve thrown so much of myself into this series, the stories reflecting my belief in diversity and inclusiveness and the need for everyone to be who they really are. I hope readers will like it.

Today is extra special, as I can also reveal the covers for books three and four (which will be published on 28 May). All the covers and internal illustrations are again by James Hart, the man who gave the You Choose books such an incredible vitality and who now brings a dynamic excitement to this new series. Thanks, James!

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Fly! Be free!

Today the latest two YOU CHOOSE FLIP ME books have been released into the wild.
Creepy Crawly Chaos / City of Robots
Extreme Machine Challenge / In the Realm of Dragons

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Merry Christmas

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